Michael, Liza, Nancy, and I went to La Ferme for a special dinner. Amazingly, none of us had been there for dinner before, and it is off the beaten track, just off the edge of a tiny commercial block nestled in residential Chevy Chase (with, incredibly, abundant parking). I’d heard good things about it from multiple sources. I also saw a picture on Jeremy Steed’s Instagram account, doversoleworldwide, of La Ferme’s version that was worth more that 1,000 words. The prospect of that Dover sole moved La Ferme to the top of my To-Eat list.
The very prospect of Dover sole is a clear indication of a celebratory dinner. This was a dual celebration of what would have been Patrick’s 45th birthday, and of my unspecified birthday, seven weeks before. It takes a while to build up a celebratory spirit for my birthday. As it turned out, we had picked a fine place for a celebration, and our meal did honor to the occasion(s).
La Ferme is a lovely place and surprisingly large. There are various spaces, with a room or rooms off to the side, and the rear half of the building has a second floor with, I suppose, another dining room, and two charming tables of two on separate balconies overlooking the main dining area. That leaves the main dining room with a soaring peaked ceiling, and a very open feel. The main room itself is on two levels, and that helps break up the large space. The focus of the main dining area is a large blazing fireplace, which I would have photographed had there not been a round table for 12 or 16 right in front of it. In all it’s a charming atmosphere, with many thoughtful small touches to enhance the mood, including soft live piano music.
We sat, received menus, and ordered drinks, a glass of cabernet for Nancy, a French 75 for Liza, and Woodford Reserve on the rocks for Michael and me. La Ferme did an exceptional job on the Woodford pour. We all ordered appetizers, and I have to say the decisions weren’t easy. Just look at their menu. Nancy and Liza chose the endive salad with walnut, apples, and roquefort, always a winner.
I went with a Provençal casserole of snails and wild mushrooms, topped with a light, flaky bread stick,
and Michael ordered the oyster fricassee with smoked bacon, leeks, and potatoes in a cream broth.
Everything was delicious. The snails and mushrooms had a wonderful earthy flavor, and the other seasonings were balanced, in contrast to presentations with the garlic shouting down the other flavors. Not that I mind that. I had a taste of Michael’s fricassee, and it had a sensational blending of flavors, with each element having its say, to overextend the metaphor. I’d probably order it on a next visit if it weren’t for the bouillabaisse whispering seductively in my ear.
Did I mention the bread service? Nice portions of warm baguette arrived for each of us, along with butter that really wasn’t necessary given the quality of the bread.
On to the main courses. We all agreed on a bottle of Sancerre, and Nancy ordered the trout almandine, which came with some pretty and perfectly cooked green beans.
Liza had the filet au poivre, which came with parmesan-truffle fries.
Let’s look more closely.
Ah, medium rare. Just right. Liza won the best sides with those green beans and the fries. Liza was thrilled, and kind enough to share a bite of her filet with me. The meat itself was full of flavor, which is not a given with a filet, and the pepper sauce suited it to a T.
Michael ordered the veal sweetbreads with a lemon-caper sauce, green beans, and a potato gratin.
Michael gave me a taste, my first taste of sweetbreads. It will not be my last. I avoided offal for may years, except for chicken hearts and gizzards, due to a traumatic liver experience. I’ve opened up dramatically since, see here, but do have my limits. La Ferme’s sweetbreads had a gentle crust and a tender, almost creamy texture that was very pleasant. The offal element was very mild, less than you get in a country pâté, and balanced by the lemon and caper sauce. This is a delicious dish.
I ordered the Dover sole, the beauty of which here is overshadowed by my inept camera work, after it was deboned. (The server had presented it first.)
Not shown is the abundant lemon butter sauce served in its own pitcher, and I cut off half of the boiled potato, which I enhanced with some of the lemon butter sauce. Dover sole, or at least True Dover Sole (Pacific Dover sole is actually a flounder) may be the most delicious of all fish. It has a mild, buttery flavor, and it shines with a variety of preparations, with lemon-butter and meunière leading the way, at least in my experience. La Ferme’s was a fine version, nicely deboned and with a sauce that brought out and balanced the fish’s best qualities. I loved it.
We all sat back and, since this was a celebration, succumbed to the dessert menu. Liza had the taste frangipani with vanilla ice cream, and Nancy ordered the honey and bourbon vanilla crème brulée, both of which I neglected to photograph. Meanwhile, Michael and I had, respectively, a cognac and a Grand Marnier. As I said, it was a celebration.
I heartily recommend La Ferme for your celebration, or for a delightful brunch, lunch, or dinner. The setting is lovely, the service flawless, and the food is delicious. This is Chevy Chase, not a Petworth or Shaw where the aim is food that’s, well, adventurous. La Ferme serves classic French dishes approached thoughtfully and executed with great skill. It doesn’t get much better than that. Even the parking is great. If you haven’t been to La Ferme, pick a night to go there and make it a special occasion.
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